With the election to pick his successor due in two months, the President laid out his own scorecard and sought to cement his legacy in the face of constant criticism, especially from a breakaway faction of his government led by DP Ruto, whom he has snubbed and instead backed Mr Raila Odinga as his preferred successor.
In defence of his handshake with Mr Odinga in 2018, and to rebut the assertion by the DP and his allies that his second term had been wasted, President Kenyatta insisted that the political stability brought by the truce steadied his government.
To demonstrate the achievements of his second term, the President said that while his administration built just about 3,000km of tarmac roads in the first term, the figure had more than doubled in the second.
He said that in the second term, close to 8,000km were completed and over 6,600km of tarmac roads we on-going.
The President attributed the improved performance to the political stability following the truce with Mr Odinga, which the DP has sought to discredit.
During the United Democratic Alliance National Delegates Conference in March, the DP termed President Kenyatta’s second term as a waste, adding that the government lost its focus after the 2017 elections.
Yesterday, the President displayed his disdain for his deputy and the Kenya Kwanza Alliance team, casting them as naysayers who dwell in negative talk. He said the next administration must show the contempt card to such prophets of doom.
Tips to next administration
President Kenyatta gave three tips to the next administration in order to succeed with big push investments: to sustain the war on corruption; avoid political strife; and show contempt to naysayers all seen as an indirect reference to the challenges he has struggled with following the fallout with the second-in-command.
The DP and his allies have always dismissed Mr Kenyatta’s war on corruption as a weapon to neutralise political opposition.
“It (next administration) must not backslide on the anti-corruption agenda. When corruption festers in government, you cannot fight it from the court of public opinion,” he said.
The President singled out criticism of his borrowing that has seen the public debt balloon.
“The naysayers said that we should not invest so heavily in infrastructure. Because people don’t eat roads and floating bridges. I refused their pessimism because I know what a new road means to the farmer who has for decades been unable to get their produce quickly to the market,” President Kenyatta said, alluding to a constant line of attack by his critics.
The Head of State insisted that he had borrowed to close the infrastructure gap and to connect markets, pointing out that it now takes a maize trader five hours to travel from Kitale to the border of South Sudan instead of three days.
“Today, any trader can travel on tarmac road to four out of five of our neighbouring countries in record time. If we can transport 10 times more passengers with SGR at half the price and half the time, and move three times more cargo daily from Mombasa to our neighbours, then our borrowing has surely been worthwhile and paid tangible dividends,” he said.
In perhaps the longest speech ever delivered on a national holiday in independent Kenya, the President defended his appetite for borrowing, which has seen the national debt grow to nearly Sh9 trillion.
“The only time that debt is a burden to a nation is if the nation is led by a cabal of looters,” the President said in response to attacks from Dr Ruto and his allies.
In March, the Kenya Kwanza Alliance described the level of national debt as a crisis and blamed it on the handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi has in particular been harsh on the debt issue, claiming in many of his public appearances that the ‘handshake’ has caused the high cost of living through the punitive public debt.
“Nations that have advanced have not used their own money. They have borrowed from others to catch up and to become world economic leaders,” the President said.
He also challenged the administration that will take over from him to borrow if it has to maintain the tempo of his accelerated achievements.
“Debt, in a cleaned-up government, is an enabler, not a burden,” he said.
Embraced more women
The Head of State also projected his government as one that embraced more women in positions of power, taking advantage of this fete to make an indirect endorsement for the Raila Odinga-Martha Karua presidential ticket.
“If it is the wish of the electorate, we have a chance of a woman shattering the glass ceiling by assuming the second highest office in our republic, the Office of the Deputy President,” he quipped.
The President said he had grown the economy from Sh4.5 trillion in 2013 to close to Sh13 trillion, and moved it from the 12th largest to the sixth in Africa. This, he said, had also seen revenue double from Sh800 billion in 2013 to Sh1.662 trillion as at April 2022.
On electricity connections, President Kenyatta said Kenya had grown power generation 40 times, and connected more homes to electricity than any other country in Africa.
The growth of the diaspora remittances, he said, hit an all-time high of Sh400 billion in 2021, surpassing traditional exports.
School transition policy
On education, the President lauded his administration’s 100 per cent transition policy, and the increase in the number of technical and vocational institutions.
The President celebrated the transfer of Sh2.44 trillion to the counties since 2013.
He also noted that since 2013, 11 million titles had been issued, up from five million that had been issued from 1963 to 2013, adding that this would only get better with the digitisation of land transactions.
Over 17.1 million Kenyans are now insured, he said, up from 4.4 million in 2013.
Also, the country has built 1,912 new facilities, increased ICU beds to 651 from 108 with other hospital beds also rising to 82,291 up from 56,069 in 2013.